Ask any Marseille local and they’ll tell you that one of their favourite places to escape to is Calanques National Park, a breathtaking national monument consisting of craggy white limestone cliffs and inlets stretching along 20km of the Cote d’Azure. Les Calanques, we would argue, is southern France’s best kept secret. Located just 30 minutes from Marseille city centre, Calanques Park is a hugely popular destination for hiking, kayaking, climbing, and general outdoor merriment.
Les Calanques, which was officially established in 2012, is the first national park in Europe to incorporate land, sea and urbanization, with the outer edges starting in the ninth arrondissement of Marseille. Not only does it draw millions of human visitors every year, but it also boasts a rich and remarkable biodiversity as the home of 140 protected land and plant species and 60 heritage marines species.
There are multiple “calanques” (French for "creeks" or "rocky inlets") in the park, each with their own distinct characteristics. Calanque de Sugiton is one of the most picture-perfect options, complete with pebble beaches, winding paths and stellar panoramic views. Plus, it usually stays open all summer. The only downside - or upside, depending on how you look at it - is that there are no facilities or restaurants in Calanque de Sugiton, so you’ll have to come prepared with food, water and sunscreen!
Slightly closer to Marseille is Calanque de Sormiou, which is just a 45-minute walk from the city car park. It’s also the biggest Calanque of them all, and it’s famous for its amazing climbing spots. Here, you’ll be able to rent kayaks, go snorkeling in the crystal clear water, have lunch at the Chateau de Sormiou and lounge on the sandy beach.
The more secluded areas like Calanque d’En Vau and Calanque de Port-Miou are most easily reached by hiking trail or kayak.
Parc National des Calanques is right between the city of Marseille and the Cassis commune in the Bouches-du-Rhône department. Several boat companies like Destination Calanques Kayak offer group tours departing from the Old Port in Marseille and the Port de Cassis, making it easy to reach by water. You can also book a private boat tour to take you to all the different areas of the park.
If you’re traveling by car, it takes between 30 and 40 minutes to reach the park from Marseille. However, parking is limited and car access is sometimes cut off completely. Your best bet is to park in a public lot and then walk the rest of the way in.
There are also several parking options around Cassis. Relais de Gorguettes Car Park is open from April to October and offers free parking and a shuttle to the entrance of the park (for a fee). During low season, you'll probably be able to find a spot in La Gardiole Car Park just outside of Cassis. From there, it's a 45-minute walk to the beaches. And Le Bestouan Car Park near Calanque de Port-Miou has pay-and-display parking options. Check the Cassis Tourist Office website for more detailed information.
Travel tip: Car access to Calanques National Park is restricted in July and August due to fire danger, so make sure you plan your trip accordingly!
Throughout the Year
Entry to Calanques National Park
Parc National des Calanques